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Ofir Barak
Ofir Barak
Ofir Barak

Ofir Barak

Country: Israel

My name is Ofir Barak, I'm a photographer based here in Jerusalem.

I can honestly say that I have been an artistic person all my life. I started out as a painter and was very passionate about it from a very early age. In 2013 I was lacking the motivation to create I was frustrated and I decided to put it aside and look for a new path to express myself through art.

I needed to travel somewhere and clear my mind and look for answers. In order to move beyond my struggle, I needed to surround myself with every form of art I could find - literature, poetry, paintings, architecture - anything goes. I remembered that the museums in D.C have free admission, so I decided to go there. Each day I wandered into a different museum and enjoyed the art galleries. One day, accidentally, I entered an exhibition of a photographer from the wrong side - where people exit. I didn't know who the photographer was, but I was struck by his images.

At that moment, I had an epiphany - this is what I want to do. This is what I can do. I spent two hours at the gallery and realized that I just couldn't consume it all in once. I went back there three more times to learn about the photographer - Garry Winogrand and each time I focused on different photographs. In the exhibition there was also a small screening room showing his famous talk at Rice University. I took a notebook with me each visit and sat at the corner of the room - writing down what I want to achieve and how. After returning home, i decided to work on a first project of my own.

Between the years 2014 and 2017, I photographed constantly and on a weekly basis the neighborhood of Mea Shearim. I attended protests, holidays and weekdays tring to present a full documentation of a religious society here in Jerusalem. After 3 years and 15k pictures, a self published book was released under the title of "Mea Shearim - The streets".

The project was well received within the world of photography rewarding me a Magnum Photos prize for the street photograph of the year, and a nomination for a Hasselblad masters in 2018. Parts of the project were exhibited in different locations including the jewish museum in berlin, the Lucie foundation - Month of photography photo book exhibition in the Us and many others.

After completing this project, I have realized it has now become a starting point to a much larger project regarding religion in Jerusalem and a three parts books. The book is sold here at the event and if you liked the talk, feel free to take a look in the open copy and purchase one.


About the Streets of Mea Shearim

During the 1870s the city within the walls of Jerusalem were undergoing a serious crisis. An increase in population, especially in the Jewish quarter, resulted in high housing prices and poor sanitation.The Ottoman government failed to remove garbage dumps and eventually the pollution seeped into the water pits, causing a rise in disease and mortality rates among the population within the walls. This drove the Jewish community to establish neighborhoods outside the walls, and by 1873 four such neighborhoods were built - "Mishkenot Sha'ananim" (1880), "Mahane Israel" (1886), "Nahalat Shiva" (1869) and "Beit David" (1873).

A small group of about one-hundred young Ashkenazi Jews who believed that moving outside the walls would help them improve their standard of living, decided in 1874 to combine their resources. They were able to purchase a tract of land outside the walls for a new settlement. It would have one-hundred houses and would serve as the fifth neighborhood outside the city walls. The name which they chose for that piece of land, Mea Shearim, was derived from a verse in the Torah portion that was read in the week the neighborhood was founded: "Isaac sowed in that land, and in that year he reaped a hundredfold (Mea Shearim); God had blessed him" (Genesis 26:12).

Construction began around April 1874, by both Jewish and non-Jewish workers. Contractors, builders and plasterers were Christian Arabs from Bethlehem, and Jewish craftsmen also contributed. By December 1874, the first ten houses were standing. At first Mea Shearim was a courtyard neighborhood, surrounded by four walls with gates that were locked every evening. By October 1880, 100 apartments were ready for occupancy and a lottery was held to assign them to families. Between the years 1881 and 1917, more houses and neighborhoods were built. New neighborhoods surrounded Mea Shearim and helped establish a large Jewish presence outside the walls. By the turn of the century there were 300 houses, a flour mill, and a bakery.

Mandatory Palestine under British administration had been carved out of Ottoman southern Syria after World War I. The British civil administration in Palestine operated from 1920 until 1948. During its existence the country was known simply as Palestine. The British regime was welcomed by the residents of Mea Shearim, who maintained good relations with the authorities for the good of the neighborhood. As a result, access roads to the area were improved, the neighborhood markets prospered, old shops were renovated, and new shops opened. Mea Shearim continued to grow, and by 1931 it was the third largest neighborhood in Jerusalem. This growth enhanced the neighborhood's status and importance, but daily life became more difficult, as many of the houses were populated with a large number of people resulting in sanitary conditions that endangered their health. The neglect of the Ottoman regime continued to set the tone, and lack of proper drainage caused rain to flood the streets and even people homes. There was a rise in poverty, resulting not only in a deterioration of the houses outer appearance but also in a spread of diseases. The neighborhood's uniform appearance also began to change, as different kinds of constructions materials came into use, resulting in non-uniform façades. Cheap tin became an alternative to the Jerusalem stone commonly used for construction.

In 1948 the Arab-Israeli war broke out and Jerusalem was divided between two countries - Israel and Jordan. The border was very close to Mea Shearim and the neighborhood suffered from military attacks and damage to buildings. Within the next 20 years ,the neighborhood would suffer from decreasing population as the children of the second founding generation moved to orthodox neighborhoods nearby, leaving as few as 170 houses occupied out of a total of 304. In later years the residents returned and the population grew once again. The population remained isolated and segregated, because it refused to cooperate with the government of Israel. Street posters (Pashkvilim) began to appear on a public walls calling on residents not to serve in the Israeli army, not to vote or be elected to the Israeli parliament, and not to participate in Israel's Independence Day celebrations.

Today, Mea Shearim remains loyal to its old customs and preserves its isolation in the heart of Jerusalem while trying to stave off the modern world; it is, in a way, frozen in time. The numerous renovations of houses at the end of the 20th century hardly affected the appearance of the neighborhood. They are still common today but fewer in numbers. Houses that were built over one hundred years ago stand alongside a few new ones. The life of the Hasidic community still revolves around strict adherence to Jewish law, prayer, and the study of Jewish religious texts. The large majority of the people are Ashkenazim; there are hardly Sephardic Jews in the neighborhood. In addition to some well-to-do family there are also many needy ones, which are helped by local charity institutions. The traditional dress code remains in effect here; for men and boys it includes black frock coats and black hats. Long, black beards cover their faces and many of them grow side curls called "payots".Women and girls are urged to wear what is considered to be modest dress - knee-length or longer skirts, no plunging necklines or midriff tops, no sleeveless blouses or bare shoulders. Some women wear thick black stockings all year long, and married women wear a variety of hair coverings, from hats to wigs and headscarves. The common language of daily communication in Mea Shearim is Yiddish, in contrast to the Hebrew spoken by the majority of Israel's Jewish population. Hebrew is used by the residents only for prayer and religious study, as they believe that Hebrew is a sacred language to be used only for religious purposes.

This is the story of the ongoing battle between the old and the new, the past versus the present, this is the everyday life of a city within a city.

My grandmother and I had a special bond.

We developed a habit that once a week, usually on Mondays, we cleared our schedule and sat down to discuss the photographs I took. We talked the stories behind the photos, the people, even how the weather affected the light in the pictures. At first, photography was something foreign for both of us and with time, we developed a passion for it. We loved our gatherings and anticipated them every week. In early 2014 things changed, we had fewer opportunities for our weekly routine as her health had begun to deteriorate. She received treatments on a weekly basis and eventually had to be under medical supervision and hospitalized. On one of the visits as I sat by her bed, I wanted to ease her mind from the treatments she received and asked if she would like to see a photograph I took the day before. She immediately said yes and was very enthused when I showed her the photograph. We ended up taking and analyzing the photo as we used to, freeing our minds from the hospital room we were in. Neither of us knew that it would be our last time together.

After her death, I decided to do a project based on the last photograph she ever saw. This one photo has led me on a journey, photographing the streets of Mea Shearim.

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Later I began to alter the plot of my books to have an excuse to include photos I liked that I had taken without reference to a particular scene. All About Photo: What lead you to photography and why? Mark Coggins: In the very beginning, it was the photos my father had taken during the Korean War with the 35mm Bolsey camera he eventually gave me. My mother recently found a box of his old negatives and slides, and several images-particularly of Korean children-are quite good. All About Photo: Do you remember your first shot? What was it? Mark Coggins: I don't remember the first photo I took, but I do remember the first one I developed and printed (around the age of 12). It was a snapshot of a large toy rubber beetle of my brother's. Not great art! All About Photo: What was your first paid assignment/job? Mark Coggins: The first print I sold was the photo of two chess pieces on a board that was used for the cover of my first novel, The Immortal Game. 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If, as Ansel Adams said, the negative is the score and the print is the performance, I was blowing it during the performance. Digital has made me a better performer. All About Photo: Do you spend a lot of time editing your images? For what purpose? Mark Coggins: I do a fair amount of editing. I often crop, convert to black and white, dodge and burn where necessary and try to make sure I've gotten as much detail in the shadows as I can. I also tone my images on the colder range of the scale. All About Photo: How do you choose your subjects? Mark Coggins: I look for interesting people interacting in interesting ways on the street. All About Photo: Favorite(s) photographer(s)? Mark Coggins: Oh, there are so many. Mark Citret, of course. From there, in no particular order, Sally Mann, Edward Weston, Ruth Bernhard, Eugène Atget, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson. All About Photo: What advice would you give a young photographer? Mark Coggins: I can't tell you how to do this, but I do believe it is important: to develop one's own style. It took me a long time to do it, and I only realized I had done so long after the achievement. It's not a paint-by-numbers type goal. All About Photo: What mistake should a young photographer avoid? Mark Coggins: Although I've been guilty of it myself, I see a lot of photographers over-manipulating images. Perhaps it's the influence of Instagram filters. All About Photo: What are your projects? Mark Coggins: I shot continuously in my home city of San Francisco, but for some reason, my best photos seem to come during travel to foreign countries. I'm planning a trip to several new (to me) European cities this summer. All About Photo: Your best memory as a photographer? Mark Coggins: When the Patricia Cornwell's publisher contacted me about using my photo of Savannah's Colonial Park Cemetery for the endpapers of her novel Red Mist. All About Photo: Your worst souvenir as a photographer? Mark Coggins: Over-exposed 4x5 negative of what I was certain to be a great shot when I didn't properly seat the bag bellows of my large format camera. All About Photo: The compliment that touched you most? Mark Coggins: When my mother hung one of my (really not very good) photos in her living room next to a watercolor by very accomplished artist. All About Photo: Your favorite photo book? Mark Coggins: Along the Way by Mark Citret. All About Photo: An anecdote that comes to your mind? Mark Coggins: I lived next to Ruth Bernhard in San Francisco for several years. I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't really understand her importance to the photography world until I met her at a party. All About Photo: Anything else you would like to share? Mark Coggins: Another anecdote: when I shut down my darkroom, I sold my sink to music photographer Tom O'Neal, who photographed the cover of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's Deja Vu album.
Leonard Freed
United States
1929 | † 2006
Leonard Freed was a documentary photojournalist and longtime Magnum member. He was born to Jewish, working-class parents of Eastern European descent. Freed had wanted to be a painter, but began taking photographs in the Netherlands and discovered a new passion. He traveled in Europe and Africa before returning to the United States where he attended the New School and studied with Alexey Brodovitch, the art director of Harper's Bazaar. In 1958 he moved to Amsterdam to photograph its Jewish community. Through the 1960s he continued to work as a freelance photojournalist, traveling widely. He documented such events and subjects as the Civil Rights movement in America (1964–65), the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and the New York City police department (1972–79). His career blossomed during the American civil rights movement, when he traveled the country with Martin Luther King, Jr. in his celebrated march across the US from Alabama to Washington. This journey gave him the opportunity to produce his 1968 book, Black in White America, which brought considerable attention. His work on New York City law enforcement also led to a book, Police Work which was published in 1980. Early in Freed's career, Edward Steichen purchased three photographs from Freed for the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.[ In 1967, Cornell Capa selected Freed as one of five photographers to participate in his "Concerned Photography" exhibition. Freed joined Magnum Photos in 1972. Publications to which Freed contributed over the years included Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, Fortune, Libération, Life, Look, Paris-Match, Stern, and The Sunday Times Magazine of London. In later years, Freed continued shooting photographs in Italy, Turkey, Germany, Lebanon and the U.S. He also shot four films for Japanese, Dutch and Belgian television.Source: Wikipedia Born in Brooklyn, New York, to working-class Jewish parents of Eastern European descent, Leonard Freed first wanted to become a painter. However, he began taking photographs while in the Netherlands in 1953, and discovered that this was where his passion lay. In 1954, after trips through Europe and North Africa, he returned to the United States and studied in Alexei Brodovitch's 'design laboratory'. He moved to Amsterdam in 1958 and photographed the Jewish community there. He pursued this concern in numerous books and films, examining German society and his own Jewish roots; his book on the Jews in Germany was published in 1961, and Made in Germany, about post-war Germany, appeared in 1965. Working as a freelance photographer from 1961 onwards, Freed began to travel widely, photographing blacks in America (1964-65), events in Israel (1967-68), the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and the New York City police department (1972-79). He also shot four films for Japanese, Dutch and Belgian television. Early in Freed's career, Edward Steichen, then Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, bought three of his photographs for the museum. Steichen told Freed that he was one of the three best young photographers he had seen and urged him to remain an amateur, as the other two were now doing commercial photography and their work had become uninteresting. 'Preferably,' he advised, 'be a truck driver.' Freed joined Magnum in 1972. His coverage of the American civil rights movement first made him famous, but he also produced major essays on Poland, Asian immigration in England, North Sea oil development, and Spain after Franco. Photography became Freed's means of exploring societal violence and racial discrimination. Leonard Freed died in Garrison, New York, on 30 November 2006.Source: Steven Kasher Gallery
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Réhahn discusses his groundbreaking new photographic series ''Memories of Impressionism,'' his artistic journey during and after Covid, and how modernity can draw inspiration from the past. French photographer Réhahn's career started with a face. More specifically, the face of Madame Xong, an octogenarian with an ''ageless beauty'' and ''hidden smile'' that inspired the world. From there, his portraits and lifestyle photos were published all over the world, in pretty much every major magazine and media out there, including The New York Times, BBC, National Geographic and more. His work centered on people living ''outside of time'' with traditional jobs and skills that had been passed down through generations. This focus led to his Precious Heritage Project, the photographer's decade-long research project to document the more than 54 ethnicities currently living in Vietnam, along with their textile and craft traditions. The final collection is housed in The Precious Heritage Museum in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Exclusive Interview with Patrick Cariou
For more than 25 years, French photographer Patrick Cariou has traveled to places around the globe, documenting people living on the fringes of society. Whether photographing surfers, gypsies, Rastafarians or the rude boys of Kingston, Cariou celebrates those who meet the struggles of life with honor, dignity and joy. Bringing together works from his groundbreaking monographs including Surfers, Yes Rasta, Trenchtown Love and Gypsies, Patrick Cariou: Works 1985–2005 (published by Damiani) takes us on a scenic journey around the world, offering an intimate and captivating look at cultures that distance themselves from the blessings and curses of modernity.
Exclusive Interview with Niko J. Kallianiotis
Niko J. Kallianiotis' Athênai in Search of Home (published by Damiani) presents photos taken in and around Athens, the city in which he grew up. The images reflect the artist's eagerness to assimilate back into a home that feels at once foreign and familiar. Throughout the years the city and the surrounding territories have experienced their share of socio-economic struggles and topographic transformations that have altered its identity. The city of Athens in Kallianiotis' photographs is elliptically delineated as a vibrant environment that binds together luxury and social inequality. The photographer depicts a city in which the temporal and the spatial elements often clash with each other while conducting his research for a home that has changed over the years as much as he did.
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